This past weekend was incredible. I laughed. I cried. I learned stuff. I listened to Jen Hatmaker teach. Need I say more?
I would be remiss not to share the things I learned. And I mean learned. I wasn’t just inspired or encourage or moved—I gained actual knowledge of things I had no idea of prior to this weekend. In fact, some of the things I learned make scripture and the Bible make so much more sense now. That’s big and I’m dying to share it!
First, let me just say that I am about to attempt to share JEN HATMAKER’S teaching AND I’M NOT GOING TO DO IT JUSTICE. Okay? I know this. So, I pray the Holy Spirit will write this post, that He will inspire the words I type. I trust Him to make this real for you, like He did for me. Because He can.
Let’s start at the beginning…
I, along with six other girls, attended a women’s conference put on by Preston Trail Community Church in Frisco, Texas. The theme was “Reckless: No Fear. All Faith.” Friday night my eyes were opened to the true definition and meaning of what it means to be a DISCIPLE. I’ve always thought of the general definition of disciple, which is to be a student, pupil or learner of a teacher. And I’ve always thought of Jesus’ disciples, the twelve chosen to follow Him. Jen started by explaining the educational system of Jesus’ day and time, and the system of the time leading up to His ministry on earth. I found the following info by Steve Corn online, which pretty much sums up Jen’s explanation and sounds almost the exact same as how she described it. Don’t skim over this–it’s going to be important!
Bet Sefer – House of the Book
In the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day kids were taught the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible) in the local Synagogue (church) beginning at the age of 6. They had classes 5 days a week just like we do today. By the time they were about 10 years old, they had memorized all of those first five books. These classes were called “Bet Sefer.” Anyway, most Jewish kids were pretty well finished with school after this and went home to learn the family trade – like fishing or carpentry or something like that.
Bet Talmud – House of Learning
Now, the kids who were really the best of the best among them were allowed to continue in school in something called “Bet Talmud.” Here, they studied all of the Hebrew Scriptures (Our Old Testament) and memorized all of them between the ages of 10-14. During this time, students also learned the Jewish art of questions and answers. Instead of answering with an answer, they were taught to answer with another question. In this way, students could demonstrate both their knowledge and their great regard for the Scriptures. They were taught to always be curious about the Scriptures. Look at how Jesus was described as a young boy in Luke 2:46-47 – “After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.”
Bet Midrash – House of Study
Very few of these students ever made it this far. For the few who did there was still another set of classes called “Bet Midrash.” If you were smart enough and knew your scriptures well enough to make it this far, you were given the opportunity to go to a rabbi (teacher) to seek further education. The rabbi would grill you and ask you all kinds of questions, because he was trying to find out if you were good enough to be his student. He wanted to know if you knew enough, but even more importantly, if you could be like him in all areas of your life. If he decided that he didn’t think you could do it, then he would tell you to go back to the family business. It was very rare, but if he thought highly enough of you, he would become your teacher and it would be your goal to become like him in every way. You would agree to take on his “beliefs” and his interpretations of the scriptures. This was called his “yoke” and he would say to you, “come follow me.” This was a huge privilege that was offered to very few people. The disciple’s (also called “talmudim”) job was to become like the rabbi in every way. If the rabbi was hurt and had a limp, you might see his healthy disciples walking behind him (in his footsteps) with a limp.”
After explaining this, Jen helped us see the contrast of Jesus’ methods when He sought out His disciples and said, “Come follow me” (Matt. 4:19, Mark 1:17). Rabbis didn’t seek disciples out; it was the other way around. The disciples he chose would have gone through these phases of learning, whether it be just phase one or all the way to phase three. But what we know is that regardless of how far they went, they were not chosen by a rabbi to be a disciple. Yet, Jesus chose them. He sought after them. He called them. Doesn’t this give new meaning to verses like John 15:16 when Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” and every verse where Jesus calls to someone to “come follow me”? The people of Jesus time would have taken His call on a completely different level than we do because they would have understood what it meant to be chosen, the work that would have been done and the discipline that it involved.
We just don’t get that. We don’t. We look at salvation and faith and Jesus as a choice that we get to make. And it is, don’t get me wrong. We must choose to be devoted to Christ, to learn His ways and have a relationship with Him. What we’re missing is the implication of The Call, the honor in being chosen by God to be a follower of His Son. He believes we have what it takes to be His disciple! He doesn’t “grill” us or ask us to be “good enough”—that’s called GRACE!!! He will never decide we can’t hack it and send us packing to our family business. Never!
“For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight,”
The next point I gleaned from this explanation was about the “yoke.” Jen explained that the yoke was basically the fine details each rabbi or teacher believed about scripture and The Law. The yoke was basically manmade rules on top of the original rule (aka LEGALISM). Her fictional example went like this: Suppose one of the rules was “Do Not Dance”. A rabbi could teach his followers his personal view on it by saying, “If you trip and fall, don’t flail your arms, lest someone mistake it for dancing.” So the rabbi would instruct his disciples to simply keep their hands at their sides and fall flat on their face. Thus, if someone saw a guy fall and land flat on his face without trying to use his hands to catch himself, they would be able to identify that guy as a disciple of Rabbi No Flail. Get the picture? A disciple was identified as belonging to a certain teacher by the way he upheld his teacher’s yoke.
But Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart,
and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”
Whoa. How many times have you heard this scripture taught with the analogy of an ox and the yoke that was used to carry his load? That explanation always made a little sense to me, but this description completely changes everything about that verse and clarifies so much for me. This is how the people Jesus was face to face with would have received his words. He was saying, “Hey guys, I’m not going to make this thing called ‘life’ harder for you. I’m gonna make it light! You don’t have to keep all these rules and regulations anymore, if you’re My disciple. You don’t have to worry about pleasing people anymore. Come, follow me!”
Being a Jesus Follow and Disciple is a pretty awesome thing, now that I think about it in this light. It’s like I have new eyes as I read scripture. And this was just on the first night! Saturday started off with some great testimonies from real women, about their real lives and stories of how God was calling them to be reckless for Him. And then Jen spoke again. I tell ya, I could listen to that girl talk for hours. At the end of each session, I found myself thinking, “It can’t be over already?!”
The first session Saturday morning was based on Mark 2:22. Jesus said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, he pours new wine into new wineskins.”
So, new wine expands as it ferments. Old wineskins have no give, no flexibility and are unable to stretch. Therefore, new wine + old wineskins = a big fat mess that’s good for no one. New wineskins have give, they stretch and they allow room for the expansion.
Transfer that info to people. Jesus is the wine. He is good and He is always doing something new. (Scripture is full of references to the “newness” of God.) As believers, we are the wineskins because we are containers of the wine. We know Jesus and have his love, his light, his power inside us. As containers of The Wine, we have to stretch.
Jen spouted out some staggering numbers about The Church in our country.
- Some 80,000-100,000 people leave the church per month.
- 3 out of 10 adults in their 30’s are even loosely connected to a church.
- Only 35% of the people in our culture are a believer—which means 65% of people do not believe.
Jen and her husband, Brandon, decided to stop debating the data and admit that numbers don’t lie. They began asking non-believers, “why won’t you come?” or “why did you leave?” The answer they repeatedly found: Religion.
If we as believers do not stretch or give or allow room for expansion (which means CHANGE), our churches will close their doors. If we insist on clinging to our traditions, our “yokes”, our rigid, unyielding beliefs that have nothing to do with Christ and everything to do with our comfort, the wine will be ruined, destroyed, and it will destroy the container.
We need to ask ourselves, our churches, where am I inflexible? Where am I unable to stretch? Is it with outsiders? Other people groups that are not part of my circle, people who make me feel uncomfortable? Or is it with insiders? People within the church who don’t believe like I do or who rejected me or hurt me at some point?
We need to create safety for people to just be. Be themselves. Be real. That’s why they’re afraid of us and our “religion”. Our Jesus is not scary. He is safe and gentle and easy and comfortable. He sought after and surrounded himself with the misfits, the outsiders, the rejects, the addicts. He was their friend and they were dear to him, not because they offered something to him in return, but just because they were. We need to see the lost world, the hurting souls around us as “dear” because that’s how Jesus sees them.
Jen told a story about a neighbor she had befriended who was not a believer. Jen had purposely not told the neighbor about their church and ministry and such because she didn’t want to scare the woman off. Not because Jen is ashamed of her faith, to the contrary. Jen and her family live in Austin, okay. As she put it, “We are surrounded by darkness.” “People don’t get my life,” she said. So as Jen was hanging out with her neighbor one afternoon, another one of her girlfriends joined them and “outed” her, as she put it. Jen watched her neighbor’s countenance fall. It crushed her. Jen immediately and lovingly asked her neighbor to explain her reaction. The neighbor said, “You’re a Christian?!…I don’t feel safe around you now.”
Jen was raised as a Southern Baptist preacher’s kid. She’s “done church” her whole life. She’s known the “rules” of church and can follow them. But as a new wineskin, she offered this comparison to help demonstrate how we as The Church need to stretch.
- This has been the way to become part of The Church:
o Believe—believe, not just in our doctrinal statement, but believe just like me.
o Belong—now that you believe, you can be one of us.
o Behave—don’t ask weird questions, don’t have different ideas on how to do things or change things. Just be here and fit in to what we’re doing.
- This is how Jesus would reach our generation, to invite them into The Body:
o Belong—build relationships with people, be a safe place for them to bring all their baggage, all their crazy. See them as dear to you, just like Jesus does.
o Believe—once people feel loved, safe, like they belong, they will believe Jesus loves them, that He is safe and they can belong to Him.
o Become—become more like Christ together, walk through life together, help bear each other’s burdens.
So what do you and I need to do to become new wineskins? Ask the Lord to show you and He will.
The last session came way too soon. I was so sad it was almost over when it seemed it had only just begun. Jen focused on Luke 22:14-20, where Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples. This was the night before his death and he said, “I have ‘desired with desire’ to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (vs. 15). Israel was proud and protective of the Passover tradition; Jesus basically redefined it on this night, and this was a really big deal.
He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (vs. 19).
- The word “Do” here literally means to make, a continuous action. Jen said it’s like the difference between “make your bed,” a one-time event vs. “make good choices,” an ongoing action. This verse referred to the ongoing action.
- “Remembrance” means “to make real”.
So what Jesus actually said in this one verse was, “don’t just do this every year; constantly do this and make this real for others. This is MY BODY, MY BLOOD, spilled for others. YOU are now THE BODY.”
We, as Jesus’ followers, His Body, are to be broken and poured out for others.
Being broken and poured out for others is exhausting and painful. If you’ve ever really tried to walk with someone who’s lost or hurting, you know this is true. Teary 2:00 am phone calls. Frustration when you can’t “fix it” for them. Being available to meet physical needs, whenever necessary. This is the work of The Body and it’s hard. It’s not just the preacher’s “job”; it is each of our responsibility as disciples. We are to represent Jesus and represent him well. Not just with a smile, but with a literal helping hand, a real live hug.
When we do this, “us” and “them” becomes “we”.
We have to take on the attitude of “we’re just gonna DO THIS!” Start somewhere, with all your crap and imperfection. You don’t have to get your own act together first. JUST START!
Jen said you’ll know you’re doing it when two things happen:
- You feel it and it hurts
- You love it
So, be honest. Tell God, “I don’t wanna do this. Give me a heart like Yours.” Then, move without the heart. Be obedient. Be reluctant, but just go.
“We find God in the MOVEMENT, not on the sidelines.”
This was my weekend. Actually, this all transpired in less than 24 hours. And it was the best way I could have chosen to spend my time. I pray the things I learned can find meaning in your life, too. As Jen said, I am your sister and I want to share with you what God has shared with me.
So, what is the “reckless” thing you need to do for God? Or, what reckless thing have you already done for God and how has it changed you? Please share your stories! And if you’re reading this and you also attended the conference, I’d love to know what parts of the weekend stood out to you?
One of my “reckless” things is this very blog. Hello?! Who really cares what I have to say lol? Also like Jen, I am not “qualified” to do this. But God put it on my heart and I just said yes. That’s all being reckless really means, saying yes to whatever God puts before you. No fear. All faith.
Let’s not compare our stories; let’s share and celebrate them. Let me hear from you!
“We find God in the MOVEMENT, not on the sidelines.” ~Jen Hatmaker
One of my besties, Susan, and me with Jen!